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Is your estate plan in order?

Estate planning, the process of organising how you want your assets transferred when you die, is something that many of us, understandably, avoid.

Currently around half of all Australians die without a will, leaving their families to deal with a complicated legal process. If this happens, assets will be divided up among the beneficiaries according to the law of the state you live in rather than your personal wishes. So if you want your wishes to be carried out, consider these things.

 

Transferring your investments

  1. Decide who your beneficiaries will be.
  2. Look at how much money is required to cover the needs of beneficiaries such as children.
  3. Nominate an enduring power of attorney to take control of your finances if you are incapacitated. If you have young children, you should also consider appointing a guardian for them.

 

Seek Public Trustee help or employ a solicitor

 

Consulting the relevant Public Trustee or a solicitor should ease your legal concerns and help eliminate any problems you may anticipate. Either one can help you to choose an executor and make sure your will is correctly drawn up, properly signed and witnessed. They will also hold the will for you.

If your wishes are clearly and legally spelled out, they will be hard to contest – although this can still happen if someone feels they should have been provided for and weren’t.

 

Choose your executor/s carefully

 

Your executor must be someone you trust completely as they will be responsible for putting your wishes into action, plus collecting all your assets and paying taxes, debts and other expenses. They can be your partner, a friend, a relative or your solicitor but make sure they are comfortable taking on the job.

 

Keep your will up to date

 

Once you’ve set up your will, you can alter it if circumstances change – such as a marriage or divorce, the arrival of children or grandchildren. Minor changes can be made using a codicil (a document signed by two witnesses and to be read with the will) but if the changes are major, a new will is recommended.

 

Get guidance

 

Each Australian state and territory has a Public Trustee to help people make valid wills. It’s important to make sure you get guidance, as your will is binding on your death. In NSW, the Public Trustee cautions against do-it-yourself will kits for that very reason.

Have a look online at the Public Trustee for your state to help with your will planning:
 

 

Review your insurance

 

An insurance policy can give you the peace of mind that your financial plan will be protected. Life insurance policies can allow you to directly nominate who should receive the proceeds of the policy if you die.

 

The financial angle

Once you’re confident your estate planning is set up properly, make sure you keep an eye on the financial side of things. Take a regular look at your investment strategy to ensure you maximise the value you get from it, now and in the future. And don’t be afraid to change it if you think your needs are changing. Talk to your financial adviser so that your financial plan remains up to date. 

 

If you don’t have a financial adviser, the Financial Planning Association (FPA) website has a section called ‘Find an Adviser’, where you can search for an adviser in your postcode area. You can also download a booklet called ‘Getting Advice’, which provides useful information and a checklist of questions you can ask your potential adviser. Visit www.fpa.asn.au or call 1800 337 301.

Disclaimer
Colonial First State Investments Limited ABN 98 002 348 352, AFSL 232468 (Colonial First State) is the issuer of the FirstChoice range of super and pension products from the Colonial First State FirstChoice Superannuation Trust ABN 26 458 298 557. Colonial First State also issues interests in products made available under FirstChoice Investments and FirstChoice Wholesale Investments. This document may include general advice but does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. You should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Financial Services Guide (FSG) carefully, assess whether the information is appropriate for you, and consider talking to a financial adviser before making an investment decision. The PDS and FSG can be obtained from colonialfirststate.com.au or by calling us on 13 13 36.